Thursday, October 6, 2011

Making Your PowerPoint Iconic

Today's Faculty Development Updates post comes from Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet, Teaching and Learning Center, Eastern Kentucky University. It is made available by the 2011-12 Teaching Issues Writing Consortium.

Ever receive an email with one of those High Importance icons brightening your Inbox? The point is that the icon, being more visual than the printed word, indicates something powerful to the brain. Maybe that’s why those stars we all craved on our elementary school papers meant so much to us.

Humans are visual learners. Most of us have learned to apply that principle to our PowerPoints (PPTs), but we’d like to suggest another addition to your PPTs that is sure to improve deep learning and student learning outcomes. 

In Learning to Think Things Through (Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall: 2009), Gerald Nosich define fundamental and powerful concepts as “those basic concepts that lie at the heart of a discipline or course” (198). And if you haven’t heard us explain the importance of beginning each class with the key concept(s) you’ll be discussing that day, you’ve heard someone talk about the value of daily learning objectives.

So here’s our tip. One way you can minimize PPT clutter while magnifying student learning is through icons. On your PPTs, get in the habit of starting each day with a slide that lists those fundamental and powerful concepts (FPCs). And to make your students metacognitive, let them know these introductory concepts are key by adding an icon beside the FPCs.

For instance, since we want to hammer our students over the head with FPCs, we use as our icon Mjollnir, so whenever they see the hammer of the Norse god Thor beside a key concept, they know—in their terms—it will be on the test.

Now what would happen to student learning if every course in our discipline, our college, or even our university adopted the same PPT symbol? That’s an inquiry for another time.

Submitted by:
Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet
Teaching and Learning Center
Eastern Kentucky University

(For more from Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet, see their feature in the December 2008 issue of Thriving in Academe, "Keeping Your Classroom C.R.I.S.P.")